Homily for May 12th, 2016: John 17:20-26.
Once again Jesus lifts up his eyes to heaven, as he continues what has come to be called his High Priestly prayer. If the theme of his prayer hitherto has been the glory that Jesus shares with the Father and wishes to share with his friends, here the theme is unity. Jesus and his Father are one, bound together by their love for one another. And this love is the Holy Spirit. Through the gift of the Spirit Jesus’ disciples are made one.
The unity among his friends for which Jesus prays extends far beyond those who hear his words. Jesus is looking toward the future, at what would become his Church. This is clear from his opening words: “I pray not only for these [those present with him in the Upper Room] but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
Sadly Christians are not all one; and our divisions make it impossible for many in our world to believe that Jesus is God’s divine Son, sent by him into the world in human form. That is why ecumenism, which involves the search for Christian unity, is not an optional extra for the Church but an essential duty. The Second Vatican Council said: “The concern for restoring unity involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike,” adding: “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion.” The search for the unity for which Christ prayed starts, in other words, at home: with us, and the deepening of our faith. “Christ summons the Church, as she goes her pilgrim way,” the Council said, “to that continual purification of which she always has need.” [Decree on Ecumenism, Nos. 5-6]
Jesus concludes this moving prayer by asking his Father “that the love with which you love me may be in them and I in them.” To which we gladly say: Amen, so may it be.